Prosecutors are dropping charges that a doctor who appeared on a reality TV show and his girlfriend raped and drugged women in California after finding key video evidence never actually existed, an official said Tuesday. Orthopedic surgeon Grant Robicheaux of Newport Beach—who previously appeared on a Bravo TV show called Online Dating Rituals of the American Male—and his girlfriend Cerissa Riley were charged in 2018 with rape by use of drugs, kidnapping, and other crimes. At the time, authorities alleged that the pair plied their victims with drugs and sexually assaulted them when they were incapable of resisting. But the high-profile case that grabbed international headlines has been mired in controversy and steeped in a contentious political battle between Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, who took office about a year ago, and his predecessor Tony Rackauckas, the AP reports. During his election campaign, Spitzer accused Rackauckas of improperly handling the case and using it to draw publicity.
On Tuesday, Spitzer said that after having attorneys in his office review extensive evidence including audio and video recordings, text messages, and documents, he decided to ask the court to dismiss the case. “There’s insufficient evidence to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt," he told a news conference. The case dates back to police investigations in 2016 into two incidents that weren't referred for prosecution. The following year, prosecutors were notified there was a DNA match for evidence taken from one of the alleged victims—but it wasn't to the defendants, Spitzer said. Rackauckas announced the case in 2018 and told reporters investigators were sifting through thousands of videos and images found on Robicheaux's phone, some that showed women who were barely responsive, but Spitzer now says, “There is not a single piece of evidence or video or photo that shows an unconscious or incapacitated woman being sexually assaulted. Not one." He says attorneys who reviewed the case didn't feel the allegations of any of the seven alleged victims could be proven in court, but he apologized to the alleged victims and said he would meet with them. (See the AP for more.)